Bethesda Bullies One Of Its Creative Fans Over Website Metatags

from the jerk-like dept

Bethesda has something of a complicated history on our pages. The company is at once often terrible on matters of enforcing its intellectual property in a protectionist manner, while also occasionally acting quite good on matters of connecting with its fans in a meaningful and downright sweet manner. Few and far between have been the stories of those two separate philosophies intersecting, but we have such an instance now as Bethesda has demanded any Bethesda trademark words be removed in metatags on the website for DoomRL, a fan-made rogue-like inspired by the classic Doom games.


It's a strangely worded letter in a couple of respects. First, the letter seems to be focused on the use of words and/or phrases trademarked by Bethesda/ZeniMax within the metatags for the DoomRL website, as opposed to making any sort of copyright claim on the game itself. In other words, it's not at all clear from the threat letter whether or not the company is objecting to the fan-game in any way, or just the use of the metatags. If the latter, the threat makes very little sense. The text on the website doesn't mention Bethesda or ZeniMax at all and only mentions ID Software to credit it for being the creators of the Doom franchise. The trademarks that appear to be in question are references to Doom itself.

And these are a game, a website, and references that are years old. The game appears to have been in production for at least six years and has been publicized on the web for about as long. It's a game that doesn't resemble any actual Bethesda property and is instead a fan's new take on the franchise, offered for free. I don't read any objection into the game itself in the threat letter, so why make such a big deal over the use of the Doom name itself? Is Bethesda cool with a fan making a Doom inspired game, so long as that fan never mentions it to anyone?

As a result of the threat, however, creator Kornel Kisielewicz has decided to scrap DoomRL for a successor that doesn't include any Doom IP. This is about the time that defenders of copyright and trademark will chime in to suggest that intellectual property enforcement has led to the creation of new intellectual property, thus fulfilling its purpose... except that isn't really true. It's basically the same game, just with the added effort of pretending like it's something it wasn't originally. Yay?

And, more importantly, the stripping of references to Doom helps Bethesda how, exactly? What was once a native expansion of the franchise as an expression of love from a fan, one which could only serve to point new potential customers back to the original game series, has instead become something independent of that series. Kisielewicz has even started a Kickstarter for the sanitized game to now profit off of it, instead of acting as a free promoter for Bethesda's game. At best, Bethesda loses out on a free marketing vector for its Doom franchise, while at worst some in the gaming public will want to punish the company for this aggressive behavior. How exactly is this kind of IP bludgeoning a better option than working with the fan/creator?

Filed Under: bullying, doomrl, fans, metatags
Companies: bethesda, zenimax


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2016 @ 2:58pm

    Must be Xmas

    Zenimax lawyer looking to boost their Xmas bonus. They are creeps, to the last zombone(looking to TM that sucker now).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 8 Dec 2016 @ 3:07pm

    Favorite excuse

    There, you know the favorite excuse will be: "but if we don't enforce our trademark aggressively (understand "overly so"), then we'll lose it."

    We all know it's not true, at least not so simply, but it's an easy excuse they all tell at some point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2016 @ 3:46pm

    So, the same Bethesda that tried to pull off paid modding, and re-released skyrim just so they could try to corner the mod marketplace, is being shady yet again?

    In regards to DoomRL, last I checked (and played), it was around before Bethesda ever released their attempt at the other genre which DoomRL does not share because it's a ROGUELIKE, not an FPS.

    It's also not a game that shares too much with any other game in the roguelike genre. Really, they're pretty great on keeping to the feeling/theme of Doom while having absolutely fuckall to do with the original or any sequels.

    All in all, Bethesda can choke on a sack of medieval chokepears https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pear_of_anguish One of the modders that provide 95% of the content of their games anyway have probably modelled one already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 8 Dec 2016 @ 4:12pm

      Re:

      As the article says, it's not even clear that Bethesda was objecting to the content of the game (which would be a copyright issue), just the use of its trademarks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2016 @ 4:48pm

    "As a result of the threat, however, creator Kornel Kisielewicz has decided to scrap DoomRL for a successor that doesn't include any Doom IP."

    Nope. He started the Kickstarter for the successor before he got the threat letter. If anything, the causality is the other way: the Kickstarter is probably what got DoomRL on Bethesda's radar.

    He also hasn't exactly scrapped DoomRL; he's released the source code on Github.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Alasdair Fox (profile), 9 Dec 2016 @ 3:57am

      Re:

      This is correct. DoomRL had been around for over 10 years, but only when the Jupiter Hell kickstarter appeared did it attract any legal attention from Zenimax.
      I’d guess the issue might have been more with the Doom logo across the main banner of the website, which was similar enough to the original iD software Doom logo that it might well be infringing under trademark law, (i.e. there may be a likelihood of confusion to the consumer that this is a Bethesda / Zenimax product. )
      As this logo has now been changed, and the name changed to DRL, with the site and game still up, this seems pretty likely.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2016 @ 5:22pm

    WTH? I don't have any sympathy for the website owner. Morons and idiots would know that any name that is protected by copyright and/or trademark is still protected by copyright and trademark laws, even if you include such names in "meta-tags". It took me a five second search to find this out.

    Competent attorneys recommend that website owners seek the permission of those entities who own the rights to those names, even if you include them in meta-tags to generate traffic to your website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2016 @ 6:00pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Dec 8th, 2016 @ 5:22pm

      If all you did is a five-second search to arrive at that conclusion, maybe you should refrain from expressing your opinion in abaolute terms...


      More importantly, though, does this have a base case law or something? Is it even settled? I mean, for example, many people have described games such as the Torchlight series as "Diablo clones" or words to that effect. Does Blizzard then have standing to sue if the devs of games described as such partake in it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2016 @ 1:34am

      Re:

      Given the rate at which companies are trademarking the language, what you propose is that companies are the only ones who can publish or sell anything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 9 Dec 2016 @ 7:28am

      Re:

      A one-second Google search led me to a product in a class of products that are routinely sold:

      http://www.sallybeauty.com/shimmer-lights-shampoo/SBS-264028,default,pd.html?utm_source=google& amp;utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=SHO&cm_mmc=google-_-SHO-_-cpc-_-keyword&gclid=CjwKEAiAya nCBRDkiO6M_rDroH0SJAAfZ4KLetevDcxazgz1sKYvaoFVZCpULP3RXwZArBSt91Y0-BoC7OPw_wcB

      Conditioning Shampoo compare to Clairol Shimmer Lights Original Conditioning Shampoo

      The compare to trademark is written right on the bottle, and yet my wife has been buying products like these for her hair for decades. It has already been found to be legal.

      So he could call it "Jupiter Hell compare to Doom" and he would be legally perfectly in the clear.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 9 Dec 2016 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      Morons and idiots would know that any name that is protected by copyright and/or trademark is still protected by copyright and trademark laws, even if you include such names in "meta-tags". It took me a five second search to find this out.

      Your five-second search was apparently insufficient to determine that names cannot actually protected by copyright.

      While there is likely a trademark case to be made against DoomRL for its title and logo, you're going to have to provide a better referece than "five second search" for the legal theory that you can't use trademarked terms in a website's meta tags.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2016 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      You are wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    z! (profile), 8 Dec 2016 @ 10:11pm

    Reading the headline, I thought this was about some of the people I grew up with; in Bethesda, Maryland (just outside of Washington, DC). Might want to be more clear that it's a company, not the place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2016 @ 1:50am

      Re:

      I'm not sure cities are generally known to have "fans", whereas entertainment companies generally produce entertainment media and entertainment media is known for fans.
      Might want to work on your reading comprehension a bit before making weird complaints.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        z! (profile), 9 Dec 2016 @ 8:58am

        Re: Re:

        "I'm not sure cities are generally known to have "fans"

        Become sure, then. If nothing else sports teams are often called by just their city's name. Might want to work on your understanding of fans (a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Blitherakt, 9 Dec 2016 @ 6:01am

    Six years?

    So is ignoring it for six years and then demanding that the site be taken down enough time to argue dilution of trademark?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 9 Dec 2016 @ 8:46am

    "This is about the time that defenders of copyright and trademark will chime in to suggest that intellectual property enforcement has led to the creation of new intellectual property, thus fulfilling its purpose..."

    ...Which sounds suspiciously like the Broken Window Fallacy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2016 @ 2:30pm

    Just to nitpick somewhat:

    The tweet explicitly stated that it's ZeniMax that sent the notice not Bethesda.

    Bethesda tends to want to connect with its customers and produce games their fan base wants to see. They are fan and modder friendly. However, when ZeniMax sticks its nose into the situation things become fan hostile with money grabs and fan hostile policies. This is a case of ZeniMax doing exactly that. Typical corporate short sightedness. Ubisoft and EA are in the same category when it comes treating fans like adversaries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 11 Dec 2016 @ 1:45pm

    Actually, this could be a nice case of trademark dilution.
    I've heard several subgenres being called by the name of one of the early games in the genre and "Doom-like" is one of them (3d first person shooter, often those in sci-fi settings.)

    The list includes Diablo, Doom, Civ, Metroid-Castlevania (under the portmanteau Metroidvania) and more. Textbook examples of trademark dilution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.